Student Success

Committed to service

Two OUWB students receive National Health Service Corps scholarships

An image of the two NHSC scholars from OUWB

From left, David Howell, M1, and Gabbie Rowlison, M2, are National Health Service Corps scholars. (Photo by Andrew Dietderich)

icon of a calendarDecember 21, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Andrew Dietderich

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Two OUWB medical students have received scholarships through the highly competitive National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program.

The students are David Howell, M1, and Gabbie Rowlison, M2. Only two other OUWB students have been National Health Service Corps (NHSC) scholars.

A program through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the scholarships call for each student to commit up to four years of post-graduation practice in underserved rural, urban, or tribal communities.

It’s a big commitment but Jeremy Jones, associate director of Financial Services, OUWB, says both students should thrive because they each “have (the) heart to serve.”

“We have had the pleasure of getting to know and working with Gabrielle, and David,” says Jones. “This opportunity is well-deserved and their future patients will greatly benefit from their passion for serving.”

‘Reaching patients who normally aren’t reached’

Much like their decision to attend OUWB, the  students each say their respective experiences prior to medical school weighed heavily in pursuing scholarships through NHSC.

Howell is from a community right outside of Portland, Oregon. He earned an undergraduate degree from George Fox University.

Howell says he “grew up in the church” and that service always has a prominent role in his life.

“At a young age, I saw my heart breaking for individuals experiencing homelessness,” he says.

It wasn’t long before he came to the realization that others around the world struggle with a bevy of issues — not just homelessness, but lack of access to health care, for example.

This realization struck him particularly hard, he says, while on mission trips to Africa, where he witnessed an incredible need for health care in what he calls a “severely under resourced” region. He says he came to appreciate his normal easy access to things like antibiotic ointments.

Upon his return from Zambia, he began volunteering in community clinics.

“I started to realize that we don’t have it much better (in the U.S.),” he says. “That really started to develop my interest in medicine where there might not always have an expert on-site…or there might not be the best equipment, but there’s still an obligation to help others.”

Rowlison also says she was impacted by the experiences she had before OUWB.

Rowlison grew up in Yuma, Arizona, and earned an undergraduate degree from University of Arizona.

“Service has been integrated into my life for as long as I came remember,” she says.

In high school, Rowlison was involved in various local service projects and volunteered at the local food bank. As an undergrad, she served an internship in Tucson called El Rio Community Health Center.

“I liked being immersed in their mission for providing affordable care to people in the county,” she said. “It really affirmed my desired to go into primary care and served rural or underserved communities.”

During a gap year, Rowlison returned to El Rio Community Health Center via a position with AmeriCorps, where she led fundraising and grant-writing projects.

“I realized this is the environment I want to work in,” she says. “I really see myself working for a community health center, or a federally qualified health center…someplace that has a goal of reaching patients who normally aren’t reached in health care.”

The two students say commitment to community and service not only drew them to OUWB — where such obligations are engrained in the school’s mission, vision, and values — but also pushed them to pursue becoming NHSC scholars.

“As NHSC scholars practice medicine in some of the most underserved communities in the United States, these recipients will truly continue living out the OUWB mission after they graduate,” says Jones.

‘Aligns with my goals’

The NHSC program awards scholarships to students pursuing eligible primary care health professions training — future primary care physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, and physician assistants.

Based on how much aid they receive, NHSC scholars commit to a maximum of four years of full-time service after graduation. Rowlison and Howell committed to the maximum of four years.

Because of the required commitment, Jones suggests that those interested in the opportunity carefully consider scholarship terms. 

“While the NHSC Scholarship Program is an awesome opportunity, it requires a serious and long-term commitment to serving underserved communities in primary care medicine,” he says.

Students must serve at an NHSC-approved site in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA).

According to the Health Resources & Services Administration, in the U.S., 85 million people live within nearly 7,500 HPSAs. The department says more than 15,000 practitioners are needed.

The application process includes submitting three essays: on the meaning of patient-centered care to the applicant; an example of the applicant proposing an innovative solution to a challenging problem with limited resources; and on an experience in which the student has contributed to the well-being of an underserved community and the impact/result of the contribution.

Rowlison and Howell each say that — although there were a lot of steps involved —applying wasn’t too difficult because they are all-in on the program and its mission.

Rowlison says acceptance into the program gives her “a really clear vision of what my life is going to look like post-medical school.”

Howell says given his goal of working in a rural HPSA, he “would be foolish to pass up” the opportunity to be an NHSC scholar.

“It feels amazing to have this opportunity,” says Howell. “I’m thrilled about this program.”

He urges current and future medical students to consider applying for the program — and to just be aware of the associated commitment, upon acceptance.

“If providing this type of health care is something you really want to do, then, by all means, go for it,” he says.

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